Lucie Oravčíková; Zdroj: TV Nova
19. 3. 2024

Lucie Oravčíková took over the management of Nova’s digital activities , including the voyo streaming service last year, from today’s Nova CEO Daniel Grunt. At the same time, she became head of digital at a sister TV group Markíza in Slovakia.

Lucie Oravčíková has been in charge of Voyo and other digital activities of Nova since 2018 and was the closest colleague of Daniel Grunt who is now her ‘double boss’: in addition to being the CEO of Nova, he retains the position of the Chief Digital Officer of the CME group, which, in addition to Nova, includes TV groups in five other Eastern and Central European countries.

In January it was one year since you replaced Daniel Grunt as head of Nova’s digital activities. Is it an advantage or disadvantage to take over the position from the person who is now your direct superior?

I never thought of it that way, but I think it is more of an advantage. Partly because I still have the same boss. We have worked quite closely together for the past two years since he rejoined Nova. So, I am not new to him, and we didn't have to go through that phase where the new director is finding out who can do what and what they think. We have worked together for quite a long time and on most strategic issues our views coincide, which is also an advantage these days when speed of decision making is important.

When you announced these personnel changes last year, Daniel Grunt was leaving his position as Digital Director not only at Nova but also at CME, and you were taking over activities only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Recently, Vladimír Mužík, who is in charge of digital at CME, has returned to CME, so has that been resolved? And who led CME’s digital activities in the interim?

It wasn’t exactly like that. Dan never left his position as CME’s Chief Digital Officer, in fact, he remains there, in addition to becoming CEO of the Nova group. He is still coordinating the other countries, especially as far as Voyo is concerned. So if he was sitting on two chairs before, one was the head of digital activities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and the other was the head of digital activities in the whole CME, he left only that one chair. Vladimir Mužík is not responsible just for digital services but for digital transformation and news, which is logical given his background.

Let’s get to some figures. CME has recently announced that Voyo has reached one million subscribers in all six markets where it operates. You have set the same benchmark for the Czech and Slovak markets by the end of 2025. But now you are talking about the end of 2026. Why the one-year shift when in all your interviews you say you have exceeded your plan with Voyo?

We have definitely exceeded our plan, but what makes you think we shift the deadline? If I remember correctly, Didier Stoessel was coming on board at CME in the autumn of 2020 and at that time it was announced that we wanted to have a million subscribers in five years. In the spring of 2021, Daniel Grunt came back to Nova, so maybe in that context, they started talking about 2026. For me, that target is still at the turn of 2025 and 2026. I don’t think there will be any shift.

You currently have approximately 700 thousand Voyo subscribers in the Czech and Slovak market...

We crossed the 650,000 mark in the autumn of 2023 and are still growing.

… is it possible to say how much of this relates to the Czech Republic?

No comment.

I have read some speculation that it is half a million.

Our objectives and project management focus on the outcome of the Czech and Slovak Voyo.

Okay. Is it realistic for Voyo to overtake Netflix in the Czech and Slovak market in terms of the number of subscribers?

Everything is realistic, the question is when. It is not our ambition at the moment.

But I suspect Voyo has already beaten Netflix in some of the markets where it operates.

Yes, in Slovenia Voyo is bigger than Netflix. In Slovakia, we have overtaken it in brand awareness, so Voyo as a brand is better known there than Netflix. However, our strategy is not to overtake Netflix but to coexist with it. We believe that subscribers can afford to subscribe to both services and we want to differentiate ourselves with local content.

Now, during the tenth anniversary of Iveta Bartošová’s tragic death, the first Voyo Originál title will be released on television. The first two series of Iveta will run on Nova, while the third series will premiere on Voyo. Does this mean that Voyo Originál programmes could start appearing more regularly on Nova’s main channel or in linear broadcasting?

Iveta is a very special case. Firstly, it is a commemoration of the anniversary of her death and also a special gift for our viewers on the occasion of Nova’s 30th birthday. Yes, I read in an interview that you should never say never, and that applies here too. Voyo Originál is intended for Voyo subscribers. But it is possible that at some stage some of the titles will make it to the screen after a few years.

When we interviewed Daniel Grunt some time ago when he was still the head of digital activities at Nova, we talked about this, and he distinguished between Voyo Originál titles, such as Roubal, and, for example, the series Ordinance v růžové zahradě, which Nova has moved from linear broadcasting to Voyo. In the interview you mentioned, I asked the same question Silvia Majeská, Nova’s Programming Director, whether the episodes of Ordinace that were made only for Voyo would ever be brought back to linear broadcasting. She said she couldn’t rule it out.

I can’t rule it out either. But at the moment, only Iveta is planned for Nova’s birthday and there is nothing else in the pipeline anytime soon.

If Iveta appears in linear broadcasting, will it also be included in the free archive on

Yes, it will. In the same mode.

On Voyo, it is possible to watch some pay linear channels, namely Nova Sport 1 and 2, but not Nova Sport 3 and 4, and there are no new stations Nova Sport 5 and 6 with Formula 1. How come?

This is due to Voyo’s profile in these two markets. Although Voyo in the Czech Republic and Slovakia is very similar, it differs in content. While Voyo Originál is more targeted at the Czech viewer, in Slovakia we have gone the sports route. It started with the Niké League, the top Slovak football league. With Formula 1 it is a bit of a specific situation because the Slovak viewer wouldn’t be able to get to it otherwise. While in the Czech Republic, it is offered by some operators, in Slovakia there is no major distribution agreement for Nova Sport 5 and 6 yet.

No one agreed to your terms. Or is it because your sister service O2 TV does not exist in Slovakia?

It is there but it is significantly smaller than in the Czech Republic. At the moment, we have no agreement with operators in Slovakia, and since the Formula 1 season has successfully started, we decided to solve it this way.

And the moment Nova Sport 5 gets into the offer of a pay-TV operator in Slovakia, will Formula 1 disappear from Voyo?

I can’t say at the moment.

When I looked at the Slovak Voyo website, it says that the inclusion of Nova Sport 5 is temporary and that you give subscribers at least 30 days notice when you are taking it off.

That is right, the inclusion of Nova Sport 5 and 6 is simply a special occasion. We didn’t even change the subscription rate for it. It is just a big gift from Voyo for Slovak viewers and because we know it is a special and exceptional event, we say in advance that it is temporary.

Were you surprised at the low number of operators in the Czech Republic who were willing to include Nova Sport 5 and 6? Is this a consequence of the high fees for the possibility to broadcast these programmes?

I can’t fully comment on that, I wasn’t there for the negotiations. However, the negotiations are still going on, they are not closed. The Formula 1 season has just begun and there may be changes. However, the cost of these sporting events is getting higher and higher, we all know that very well.

Let’s move on to Voyo Originál. There is a strong cooperation between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, projects are created together. Is there any similar synergy across the other markets where Voyo operates? Or is there any such cooperation in the pipeline?

Czech-Slovak synergy is based on linguistic affinity. I think that the synergy between Croatia and Slovenia, which are also not so different in terms of language, is very similar.

Was any Voyo Originál created in collaboration of several countries at the same time?

Not yet. We share successful themes, but the implementation is local. For example, Sex O'Clock will be shown on Voyo Adria. We evaluate what could be successful where and of course we inspire each other.

Global streaming services are gradually introducing cheaper tariffs with advertising. Voyo has resisted this option but lately, you haven’t ruled it out either. Are you planning to introduce an advertising tariff and, if so, from when?

I wouldn’t say that we are outright resisting it. We are continuously analysing it, we are following trends quite closely, both in the West and in the Czech Republic with our competitors. However, in our opinion, it is not the right time now. If you look at the Western markets, Netflix, Disney+ and others started this when their growth slowed down, stagnated and decided to support further growth by introducing an advertising layer to revive it. We are thinking in much the same way, but at the moment we are growing so strongly just with paid Voyo that introducing an advertising tier wouldn’t make sense. Which is not to say it won’t come. It has to make sense to us. I can tell you it is definitely not going to be this year.

So far, the only service that has introduced an advertising tariff right from the start is prima+. In early February, it announced that it had over one million users and 125,000 subscribers in its first year of existence. What do you think of those numbers?

I would need more detailed numbers, monthly data. It is hard to assess this way because I don't know what the structure of those who have an add-supported plan and those who don’t, what the million users consist of. Voyo has paying users only, which is not the same situation. Also, the paying user numbers we give relate to one point in time, whereas the users given by the Prima group are users who have appeared on the service throughout the year. It is not entirely comparable. Of course, we have some estimates from abroad where we see that the ad-supported plan tends to be more of a minority option.

Would Nova be willing to sell some of its titles to other streaming platforms, perhaps international ones? The question is whether these would be platforms that operate on the Czech market...

Not on the Czech market. Voyo is growing so fast precisely because it offers its premium content exclusively on the Czech market. As far as regions outside CME’s footprint are concerned, we are open to rights trading. We have recently signed a deal with an Israeli distributor for the Extractors series, and we succeeded at the Berlinale and in the London market. We are delighted that our work is world-class, and we are not at all opposed to this type of collaboration.

Metoda Markovič: Hojer is a great success. I have been informed that you are preparing a second series dedicated to the so-called “Spartakiáda Killer”.

Yes, we have good news for all fans. Legendary investigator Jiří Markovič will return with the case of the capture of the so-called Spartakiáda killer Straka. The original team of detectives - Petr Lněnička, Václav Neužil and Adam Mišík - will return with him.

Let’s move on to hybrid broadcasting (HbbTV). Nova is very active at the international HbbTV Forum, regularly receiving various awards. You work a lot with Czech Radio Communications (CRA) on HbbTV solutions. How are the award-winning solutions actually created: do you outsource them to CRA for technical processing, or do you create them yourself and CRA just deploys the finished applications to their network?

We come up with the idea, and then we give the assignment to CRA. CRA does the technical and development work.

So they create what you require as a turnkey project.


Do you have any data on the penetration of TVs with the latest version of HbbTV 2.0, which enables the most interesting features of hybrid broadcasting?

The penetration of HbbTV 2.0 is 65%. There are therefore a total of 955,500 devices on the market.

You have recently launched TN Live as a separate linear channel and at the same time obtained a licence for it from the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting. What are your plans for it in the future? And can it be considered a full-fledged news channel?

We want it to have as high viewership as possible. It is a specific project that was first on the internet and then we put it on HbbTV as part of our development plans and gave viewers access to it via the blue button. This allows it to develop further.

Do you plan to transform it eventually into a classic linear channel broadcast in DVB-T2?

Not at the moment.

And at a later point?

If we consider it, everyone will know in time.

You have also entered HbbTV with the app, so viewers can play Nova shows from the archive via the red button. In this context, I am curious how you feel about the Czechflix project, which has been dusted off by CRA. It is no longer thought of as a streaming service but as a joint archive of Czech TV stations in HbbTV. Through one interface, viewers would have access to all TV shows. Has CRA contacted you with this idea?

I don’t know exactly what the idea is, but if it really is a collection of archives in one place, I wouldn’t call it Czechflix. My user experience would be different for Czechflix. I don’t see any added value in that because as far as I know, all the TV stations have their HbbTV or streaming service with the archive shows.

It is more about the fact that the viewer would not have to search for a specific linear channel to play a programme from the archive. At the same time, it would create competition for IPTV, which is similar. The viewer opens the programme page where all the TV channels are and can play the programme they missed.

For us, this would only apply to the archive of our own programmes, which we provide in a limited mode. Not everything is there. All of our content is on Voyo.

But when you have contracts with IPTV operators, they allow their customers to replay the complete linear broadcast from several days ago. That is what these operators pay you for, isn’t it?

Yes, they are paying for the opportunity to use our content in this way.

So it is convenient for you and you probably don’t want to provide the same thing for free as part of HbbTV.

Absolutely not.

Via HbbTV you also distribute linear broadcasts of the Nova Lady channel, which does not have such good coverage in terrestrial TV. Do you plan to distribute some of your other channels this way?

No, we are not currently planning to broadcast any of our other channels via HbbTV. The question is why would we do that when they are all available terrestrially and putting them on HbbTV doesn’t make sense.

Did you try to arrange with CRA the possibility of encrypted broadcasting of pay linear channels via HbbTV? For example, you would offer Nova Sport stations in this way and the viewer would not have to conclude a contract with the operator, just buy an access card in a newsagent somewhere.

It sounds nice, but the implementation would not be so easy. You would have to buy a box to connect to your TV, so it is much easier for the user to contract with an operator.

How do you feel about the possibility of better ad targeting via HbbTV? It is actually replacing linear broadcast advertising with internet advertising that is inserted into the classic broadcast on connected TVs.

It has been discussed for quite a long time, but the technical solution has still not been fine-tuned to the point where we can say it makes sense. So far, only a few Western European countries such as Germany, Spain and the UK have implemented it. It is not unified, and there are often problems to solve so that broadcasts don’t get stuck or run accurately at the times the ad block airs. It just seems to me that it is still in the development stage, so we are waiting for these issues to be resolved.

How would you deal with such targeted ads in terms of GDPR? You would be targeting specific people. Would the audience have to confirm their consent somehow?

Given that GDPR is a European issue and Spain and Germany already broadcast this type of ads, I assume they have it covered.

At the Prague HbbTV Forum two years ago, you presented interactive projects for HbbTV, such as quizzes and competitions. Are you developing them in any way?

We introduced questionnaires that fit our strategy. Questionnaires are basically a marketing solution where we target all audiences and ask them a question. When the viewer answers, it gives them the correct answer straight away. There are also some business opportunities where the app can lead the user to the client’s app.